W.H. quiet on Obama-Blago link

W.H. quiet on Obama-Blago link

June 29th, 2010

By GLENN THRUSH & JONATHAN ALLEN, Politico

The White House was mum Tuesday after a union leader testified that Barack Obama personally asked him to approach then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich about appointing confidant Valerie Jarrett to his Illinois Senate seat – testimony Republicans say clearly contradicts the Obama team’s version of events.

In testimony at Blagojevich’s federal corruption trial, Tom Balanoff said Obama — speaking a day before his Nov. 4, 2008 triumph in the presidential election – said that Jarrett wanted the job and was qualified, although he wanted her to join him in the White House.

Defense lawyers – and now the GOP – have claimed that Balanoff’s version of events conflicts with Obama transition team lawyer Greg Craig’s report on his investigation into contacts between Obama’s inner circle and Blagojevich’s team.

In a memo to the then-president-elect and a subsequent conference call with reporters on Dec. 23, 2008, Craig, who later served briefly as White House counsel, asserted that “The President-Elect had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat.”

Read More

Emanuel pal delivered message from Obama

Emanuel pal delivered message from Obama

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has indirectly re-entered the picture at the Blagojevich corruption trial. Government witness John Harris, Blagojevich’s onetime chief of staff, said he received a call from an intermediary for Emanuel on Nov. 10, 2008, six days after the presidential election.


The intermediary was John Wyma, a lobbyist pal of Blagojevich and Emanuel. And the message Harris said Wyma was asked to deliver was that President-elect Barack Obama “would be thankful and appreciative” if Blagojevich would appoint Obama’s friend Valerie Jarrett as Illinois’ new U.S. Senator.

On a wiretapped phone call with Blagojevich the next day, Harris related details of his talk with Wyma. Blagojevich was at home and said he had babysitting duties. Cartoons on TV could be heard in the background.

“They’re not willing to give me anything but appreciation, (expletive) them,” Blagojevich said of Wyma’s message.

Blagojevich also wondered out loud whether he could use the Senate appointment to induce Obama to lean on Obama’s friend, billionaire Warren Buffett, to bankroll an issue-advocacy group to be run by Blagojevich that would give the governor a way to make some money and remain on the public stage.

Then he floated more ideas. Maybe he would appoint deputy governor Louanner Peters to the Senate seat and have her keep it warm for him in case he was facing impeachment. In that event, she would resign and he would appoint himself to fill the new vacancy.

And then there was the U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. feint. Blagojevich said he would plant a false story with Chicago Sun-Times gossip columnist Michael Sneed that “Jesse Jackson Jr.’s star is rising,” meaning that the governor was considering putting him into the Senate post vacated by Obama.

Harris made it clear that Blagojevich had no intention of actually appointing Jackson but just wanted to use the prospect to scare Obama’s people into cutting a deal on the Senate seat.

In an earlier wiretap played in court, Blagojevich was heard referring to Jackson as “a bad guy” and noting that Obama didn’t want to see him as senator either.

–Bob Secter